Thursday, January 08, 2015


This is a letter I've decided not to send, and it breaks my heart that I've decided it's just not worth sending. Once again, the same couple friends got into a semantic discussion about the word "childfree" and how, in their eyes, it means something inherently negative. They said they view people who define themselves by the "lack" of something with suspicion, but were quick to point out that this didn't include their friends "who happen to not have children and don't plan to."  But we've talked about this before. I've tried to reach them. This was going to be my attempt to do it again, but I've decided that maybe it's better left unsent. If I have to explain myself to this degree when someone hurts me, then maybe I don't need them in my life.

Do you have anything in your life that you have to hide from everyone you meet? Do you have to decide whether you trust a person enough to tell them a basic fact about your life? Do you have a topic you avoid, or that you bring up hesitantly with friends to see if they’ll still like you if you talk openly about it? Are you closeted about anything? Because I feel like I have to “come out” to everyone I meet and dread new introductions because I never know if they’re going to accept me, lecture me, or insult me.

Just yesterday I was trapped in an hour-long ride with a driver who chose that time to answer my response of “I have no children” with an hour-long lecture about how I’m living my life wrong. Then I got to the airport and saw your post. This is a normal day for me. It happens with 80%, maybe more, of new people that learn I’m 37 with no children. I’ve literally been asked to explain myself every day this week to new people who asked the question. The response is rarely casual. “Oh, I have 2 kids myself.” “Oh, do you have pets?” That’s what I’d love to hear. It’s usually met with pity, incredulousness, or demands that I defend myself. I don’t bring this up to people. They bring it to me.

I don’t mind people asking the question or assuming I have kids. It’s the norm for people my age and I don’t take offense to the assumption, or to that being the automatic “nice to meet you” question (though I wish it weren’t). But I would never dream of lecturing someone about how they’re doomed to regret their life choices, yet it’s okay for people to say it to me, and they do. They do ALL THE TIME. You guys don’t do that, and I applaud you for that. But this is a daily occurrence. The same people who would never condemn someone based on their religion, or their sexuality or choice in life partner will immediately launch into a diatribe at me. Complete strangers delve into my personal life. Workplace harassment on this issue — THAT I AM NEVER THE ONE TO BRING UP — is a big part of the reason I went into business for myself.

This is why we seek a sense of community. This is why we want to define ourselves but what we *are* instead of what we are not. You see the word “childfree” as defining something we’re not. That’s the heart of the problem.

This is where your semantic argument always begins, but I am telling you that reducing this issue to semantics trivializes it. If we chose a different, more semantically neutral word, I think you’d still have a problem with us choosing to build an identity around being non-parents.

Similarly, saying that we just didn’t check off a box in life’s list relegates us to a permanent “other”ness. It’s not a lack of choice. Childfree is not a default state. I’m not “abstaining” from something. I’m actively living the life my body and brain tell me is right for me, and yes, I want there to be a word for what I am. I need it.

Because it is an identity. I don’t need it to be a central part of my identity. People who question me and insist I explain myself make it so it has to be. Do you think LGBT people want to be defined by that label? Of course not. This is the same. And yes, I just made the connection. I believe very strongly that I was born this way. I have never felt the deep biological need to be a parent. Ever since I was a child who didn’t like playing with dolls, or a teen who never saw “have kids” on my life’s to-do list, before I had a word to define it, it’s who I’ve been. The only *choice* I’ve made is to trust my body and my brain and go against people who’ve incessantly insisted that I’d change my mind. The only reason that doesn’t happen anymore is that I’m too old. Now the narrative from complete strangers is that I’m doomed to an unfulfilled life full of regret.

I’m so much more than being childfree, but it is something that I have to be at my core. Otherwise I could never deal with people scrutinizing me, shaming me, dooming me. I would LOVE for the “do you have kids” question to just end at my answer and not be a THING. But it so rarely does, and it becomes how people define me. So, we adapt. We make it a point of pride instead of shame.

I understand you feel that your prejudices against people who identify as childfree don’t apply to us. I know that even though you don’t understand it yourselves, your hearts aren’t hateful to the idea that we don’t want to be parents. But you’re obsessing over semantics while we’re telling you that this is not a hateful word, and it’s part of our identity. It is the word we choose. Why isn’t that enough?

I realize I’m ending on a question, but it’s for you to answer for yourselves. 

Friday, May 30, 2014


I learned today that my formerly childfree ex-husband now has a son with his current wife. We split up back in 2000, and it was more of a breakup than a divorce, but it hurt at the time. I'm long over it, but always curious about where he's ended up. The woman who is now his wife despised me when we were still on good terms. She went so far as to forbid him from talking to me because she was immature and controlling, so we're not friends, but every once in awhile there's that urge to see "where are they now". Even though we were divorced and lived in different countries, she couldn't handle the fact that we were on good terms with each other.

Spoiler alert: Yes, I Facebook stalked them. Shut up.

His wife recently posted a family photo that made me laugh with schadenfreude. She's gleefully holding their baby son. He's looking miserable. He didn't even bother forcing a smile. The best photo of their photo session doesn't even have him trying to look happy. Now, I don't actually want him to be unhappy. Not at all. But he made his choice when he kept dating that vile woman and married her.

But there are other feels that come along with such a revelation. Knowing how controlling his wife always was, I'm presuming she had all the say in when they'd have a child. And I wonder, if we hadn't split up, if we'd have decided to have a kid. And, because it's a giant jerk, my uterus took a moment to remind me that it's there and barren. It does that sometimes, gives a little twinge related to seeing a baby and says "Hi, remember me??" Biology is irritating that way.

But minutes later, something else happened. A dear friend who is currently in Barcelona, my favorite city int he world, posted a photo. A photo of her baby, in a hotel room. Why the hotel room? The kids are cranky. They're only in Barcelona for a day before they leave on the rest of their trip, but they're in Barcelona, possibly the most amazing city on the planet, overnight! They could be wandering and people-watching and viewing the architecture and eating some of the best food in the world! But they're spending it in the hotel room with their already travel-weary kids. It's the first 12 hours of their vacation.

Now, they don't seem to have a problem with this. They're excited about their vacation and they should be! This is exciting for them! But I look at this picture of their adorable baby in front of the window overlooking Barcelona and I don't see the baby. I see missed adventures.

The complicated feelings lasted just minutes, only long enough to confirm I'm on the right path. And now, more than anything, I just want to go to Barcelona.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

I'm Not Your Thoughtless Childfree Friend

You know that character, right? The shitty childfree friend who keeps sending invitations to my friends to rub it in their faces that they can't do the exciting things I can do because WOO! I'm a DINK with disposable income! The one in all the articles that go viral about childfree women being thoughtless and inconsiderate of their friends with kids.

I'm not that woman. I'd wager that most of us aren't that woman. These articles and blog posts are giving us a bad rap and it's my turn to clear a few things up. 

If I send you an invitation, it's because I want you to come. Period.
Yes, I know that money's sometimes tight, but maybe you're ready to splurge on a night out. I want you to have that option. Yes, I know that finding a sitter is hard, but maybe that night it wouldn't be? Maybe this is a time you'd go for it, or maybe this time it wouldn't even be a big deal for a weekend at Grandma's.  It's worth a shot. Wouldn't I be a bigger jerk if I stopped sending the invites and just presumed you'd never want to come? Please, don't read into it.

I don't think you're a loser if you say you can't make it, for whatever reason. 
If you think that's where my head's at, then there's some serious projection happening. Give me the benefit of the doubt. Presume I had good intentions in inviting you, because I did. When my friends with kids decline an invite I don't think of it as anything different than if someone else says "Sorry, I had other plans". Sometimes I decline plans because I just don't have the energy to be social. You're allowed to do that too. You don't need a "good" reason.

I don't think you're jealous of my life any more than I'm jealous of yours.
The stock response from childfree people when they see parents ranting about their friends who don't get it is "you're just jealous." First off, that's a shitty thing to say to someone, so seriously CF people? Knock it off. You're making us look like inconsiderate assholes. Maybe there is some jealousy there. Like you never have any "grass is greener" moments, maybe not about kids, but about other things. 

I don't think I deserve to be sitter-worthy every time I have an event.
But maybe, just maybe,  this time it'll be doable. I know you have priorities that don't include playing board games  and drinking cocktails all night. THAT IS GOOD. Your kids SHOULD be your priority. I expect your kids to be the priority, but I also think you should be the one to make the decision how you want to spend your time. I know I'm just one of multiple options.

I don't want you to feel bad that you keep having to decline.
This is the hardest part. I don't know if my invitations make you feel bad unless you tell me. You see, my friends who communicate well tell me that they appreciate the thought. If you don't appreciate the thought, tell me. It's cool. I don't want to be a thing on the list of things that your life obligations keep you from addressing. I'm just trying to remind you that my door is open, but I can do that without sending invitations.

I know our friendship has changed… and I'm sometimes sad about that.
But there's a difference between feeling sad about that and being shitty about it. I bet you miss having friends high on the priority list sometimes too. But I don't resent you or your kids. I'm not mad at you for changing. I'm proud of you for changing, for being a thoughtful mom and putting you child's needs ahead of your social needs, especially when it's hard.

I may not understand, but I understand. 
They're your shoes, not mine. I'm never going to appreciate the depth of your devotion to your kids, or the depth of your exhaustion after a day of work and parenting. But I also won't pretend to. What I can do is empathize, and be there for you even though sometimes you can't be there for me. I'm okay that things are a little more one-sided now. Talk to me. Vent to me. Cry on my shoulder or tell me that tonight you just CAN'T. We're still friends.

This is all a part of friendship. Friends give each other the benefit of the doubt. Presume I have good intentions and that I want to help support you, and I'll presume that unless you tell me we're not cool, you're not rejecting my friendship when you say no. If what you need for me to be supportive is a little distance, that's okay. Just communicate with me. If invitations make you uncomfortable, say something and I'll be more judicious about the events I invite you to. If you're too exhausted, I never want you to feel like you can't tell me no. Will I be disappointed? Well, yeah, probably,  and you'll probably be a little sad you have to say no, too. 

We're not all that different.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Oh Bother

4. Also you are so happy with your decision..then why are you giving justifications to the one is bothered!

These are the comments that make me laugh. People who ask this, who presume I'm writing justifications, who think that writing about my experiences means I'm overcompensating are missing one key point:

I'm not writing this for you.

I'm writing this for myself, and for the many women who write to me thanking me for being a voice of experience when they're just starting their own journey. My audience isn't the women who don't get it. If they stumble across my blog and leave with a greater understanding of childfree women and the childfree choice, bonus. But I don't expect that to happen. 

The irony of these statements isn't lost on me, either. When someone says things like this, they sound quite bothered, actually. These people took the time to find my childfree blog, read my posts and found them so compelling for one reason or another to write a nastygram in response.

That, my dear, is the definition of bothered. 

But again, these women are not my audience, and what I write is not a bunch of justifications. They're thoughts, stories, experiences. And as long as people reach out and tell me that I've made a difference for them (and they do!) I'm going to keep sharing.

Monday, March 24, 2014

What If Things Were Different?

Sometimes I wonder whether, if I married someone else, or if my husband and I followed a different paths, if I would have ended up having kids. I should note from the start that I'm not seeing this through the lens of regret. Quite the contrary. "What if" isn't always a sad, regretful scenario. I am extraordinarily lucky to have had the opportunities I've had, and there is no regret here.

It's a weird thing to wonder, though, especially since, in theory, someone determined to be a father would be incompatible with me, but it's something I'm thinking about while I'm feeling kind of nostalgic tonight.

My husband wanted kids when we got together. It was a really big issue early on in the relationship. I knew what I wanted, and it didn't involve kids. It's part of why I lost my best friend at the time, because she wouldn't stop insisting that I was being stupid by making it a deal-breaker issue.

But it was a deal-breaker. I wouldn't get engaged until I knew he understood that this would be a childless marriage. I needed to know he could live with that.

As the years went on, I wondered whether he'd have regrets. We've built a pretty amazing life for ourselves, which I think it part of why he hasn't wavered, and we talk about it a lot to make sure we're still on the same page. Thankfully, though, we remain solid and together, especially on this issue.

Sometimes, though, I wonder if we ended up on a different path, if we'd have looked at the idea of children differently. If we didn't have the money to travel, or the house we really love, would we have made different choices? What if we lacked the rich social life and the amazing groups of friends who keep us so busy?

What if he never went back to school and was still working customer service? This is, perhaps, the biggest what if of all. I never would have left my corporate job to become a freelancer. The risk would have been too great. We wouldn't have this house, certainly, and we wouldn't have traveled to the conventions we visit every year, and certainly we wouldn't have experienced other countries and cultures as we have, which means our world would be much, much smaller. We'd have less free time, and would be far less involved in the geek community where we've met so many friends.

If he never went back to school, our household income would be less than half of what it is right now, and that matters. One of us would likely have experienced a long stretch of unemployment during the last decade. This house would only exist in our dreams. We would still probably have only one cat and would likely be in the same apartment. Maybe we'd have bought a small house, but money would be a much bigger issue than it is today.

The question I ask myself is, without the travel, the cultural experiences, the amazing friendships that we've developed because we have been so fortunate, would we have looked differently on having kids?

In a lot of ways we'd have a lot less to lose, even though from a purely numbers standpoint we're much more equipped to raise a hypothetical family than we ever would have been. Would we have succumbed to the short burst of baby rabies I had a couple years ago?

Now, mind you, I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. I would be a different person if those were the choices life led me to make. But it's interesting to think about how vastly different our life would be if my husband never finished college. He earns well over twice what he earned when he left his job to go back to school, which has afforded me the luxury of working for myself.

I don't think our life would be worse if we followed another path, one where fulfilment came from family rather than cultural and travel experiences with each other. But it would be so very different. And I can see us ending up in a position where we the sacrifices involved with raising a kid weren't so bad.

It's interesting to think about, but I'm so glad we have the life we have, the friends and kids in our life that we have. As far as lives go, I ended up with a pretty great one.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

"I used to be just like you."

Boy, do women love saying this to me. The love telling me how they never wanted kids, that they were workaholic professionals and hey, they still are, but they managed. They tell me how motherhood changed them, adjusted their priorities.

And I listen.

I smile.

And I say, "that's wonderful for you. But I'm happy with my life as it is."

And she sighs, disappointed that it's not up for discussion.

Welcome to my dinner conversation tonight with a colleague. I went to a lovely dinner with a woman I met through my current client and we had a wonderful conversation. We talked about work, mutual connections, travel. And then she asked me about my kids.

"You've been married 8 years and... so wow, you're really not doing it, huh?"

I hoped she'd let it drop, but they never do. Especially women in their late 40s up through my mother's age, mid-50s or so.

Many women used to be childfree until they had kids. This isn't unusual, apparently, judging by how gleefully so many women tell me that they never wanted kids until…

And that's great for them. But I don't want that to be my story. That's lovely, colleague, that you launched into stories about how clueless and afraid you were with your first child, it really is. But don't be offended when it doesn't make me immediately change my tune. When you try to one-up me when I explain I'm useless with infants, you make me clam up because we can't have this conversation.

We can have a conversation about my choice. We can have a conversation about your kids and your experiences. What we cannot do is have a conversation where the purpose of sharing these stories is to convert me, to make me see the error of my ways. It's disrespectful and unfair.

And tonight it took a perfectly lovely dinner and left me with a sour taste in my mouth.

Telling me "I used to be just like you" may be your way of finding solidarity with me, of saying we're the same, but it's not. It isn't supportive. What is supportive? Asking questions without giving the third degree. Respecting when I change the subject. Treating me exactly the same as you treated me before you found out I wasn't having children. That's what support looks like.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Love and Loss

A few weeks ago, I lost my beloved cat. Her death didn't just blindside me; it devastated me. 

We have three other cats, of course, but she was so special. We had a bond like I've never experienced with another animal. Hell, I've never experienced it with another person. The cancer moved quickly, and we didn't see it coming. She wasn't even five years old. I could not have loved her more and I feel cheated out of time I could have had with her, and guilt that I couldn't do anything to save her.

It's taken me weeks of daily sobbing fits to be able to write about my loss. I'm getting better, but the love I had for this little girl is so intense that it does make me wonder about the connection a mother has with her child.

If you're going to chastise me for comparing the two, just stop right now, okay? I know it's different, but this is the closest I will get to this emotion, so just give me a break here.

I've lost animals before, but with her it was like a part of me left with her. As I held her in my arms in her last moments I felt my heart break with physical pain that radiated through my entire body. I still feel an emptiness that I'm terrified will never leave. I miss her every day in little ways, and sometimes in big ways. I loved her most.

I'm not having random breakdowns anymore, but the pain is still palpable. The way I'm choosing to deal with some of this grief is to get a new kitten. When my first cat was growing old and ill, I got my new little girl. She was essential to getting over my grief, and I think that's a big reason why our bond was so close. I needed her, she needed me, and we became inseparable.

I love my other cats, of course, but I lack that special, deep connection with them. I know now that I crave that connection, that I need that in my life. But I also know now that a bond with an animal is enough to satisfy that part of who I am. Losing her has taught me a lot about myself and the love that I need in my life.

We're going to meet the new kitten this week. If we bond, if it feels right, we will jump in feet first. While I know better than to expect the intensity of the bond with a new kitten to rival the kitty love of my life, I'm excited to open my heart up to another animal. New beginnings for a new year.